You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Lear jeers primetime’s demo focus

Int'l Emmys celebrated at Gotham luncheon

Everybody likes the script, but nobody will buy it. That’s a common predicament for TV writers — even Norman Lear, these days.

In a lively Q&A with fellow showrunner Ryan Murphy, Lear told a Gotham crowd on Monday that he’s been actively pitching networks on a sitcom that he wrote aimed at older auds — without much luck.

“Everybody thinks it’s funny but no one will go near the demographic,” Lear, 90, admitted during a luncheon at the New York Hilton celebrating the 40th annual Intl. Emmy Awards, which were handed out Monday night.

“I want to see a show like that. I’m not sure that one Betty White” is enough to represent an entire generation, Lear said, bemoaning the networks’ obsession with the 18-49 demo.

Lear and Murphy were feted with honorary awards by the Intl. TV Academy. But Murphy made it clear he jumped at the chance to interview Lear, award or no. The co-creator of “Glee” and “American Horror Story” said he’s long idolized Lear, whose litany of hits include “All in the Family,” “Maude,” “Sanford and Son” and “The Jeffersons.”

In his latest series in particular, NBC comedy “The New Normal,” Murphy said he’s tried to infuse social relevance into the show about a gay couple who become parents through a surrogate mother.

Lear figures if he can’t get a show on the air about older characters, maybe no one can.

“I wrote it. It’s funny. Everyone likes it,” Lear said. “There are plenty of people out there between 50 and 100.”

Lear has mostly been out of the day-to-day TV biz since he sold his Embassy Communications/Tandem Prods. empire to the Coca-Cola Co. in 1985 (at the time Coke owned Columbia Pictures). But in 2007, he inked a deal with NBC to work with young scribe Nina Colman on a series, but the project never got very far.

Of the thousands of episodes he’s produced, Lear said his favorite was the “All in the Family” seg in which cab driver Archie Bunker gives mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a female passenger who turned out to be a transvestite.

Lear’s legacy in TV was to marry humor with thorny social issues of racism, anti-Semitism and sexism, a commitment that often brought him into conflict with network standards and practices execs. He said that when conflicts erupted, he’d just threaten to leave. “I found out they can’t take my wife or my kids,” he said.

“See, I try that and they don’t care,” Murphy joked, sharing his own frustration over run-ins with network watchdogs.

Lear said his favorite contempo show is “Mad Men.” And “I won’t go to bed without Jon Stewart.” In keeping with industry trends, he said “everything I see, I see on TiVo.”

More TV

  • 700700 + Ted Turner Dedication. December

    Ted Turner Tributes Established With WarnerMedia Gift to University of Georgia

    WarnerMedia has established a scholarship, internship program and exhibition hall at the University of Georgia to be named after maverick media mogul Ted Turner. The company has gifted $550,000 to the university to create the Ted Turner Scholarship Fund, for students attending the school’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, which is also the [...]

  • Peter Chernin

    Peter Chernin: 'There's No Reason Hulu Shouldn't Be Netflix Today'

    The Chernin Group head and former News Corp. exec Peter Chernin believes that Hulu, not Netflix, should’ve been the dominant streaming platform of the modern era, blaming Fox and NBC for diminishing the streaming service he helped launch in 2007 in a joint venture with then-NBCUniversal chief Jeff Zucker. “The day we both left [in [...]

  • Golden Globes nominations predictions

    Golden Globes 2020 Predictions: What Movies and TV Shows Might Nab Nominations?

    Awards season kicks into higher gear on Monday, as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announces nominations for its 2020 Golden Globe Awards, which cover the 2019 calendar year. Noms will give certain films momentum heading into the Oscar race, while it’s the first opportunity for many TV series to earn awards acclaim before competing for [...]

  • Sung Kang CAA

    Apple Drama 'Lisey's Story' Casts 'Fast & Furious' Alum Sung Kang

    “Lisey’s Story,” the upcoming Apple TV Plus drama from Stephen King and J.J. Abrams, has cast Sung Kang in a recurring role, Variety has learned. Kang joins previously announced stars Julianne Moore, Clive Owen, Joan Allen, and Dane DeHaan. The eight-episode series is based on Stephen King’s 2006 book of the same name. It follows [...]

  • Astronomy Club Season 1

    Netflix's 'Astronomy Club: The Sketch Show': TV Review

    The premiere of “Astronomy Club” is so dense with fully-formed jokes, wry social commentaries, and wild left turns that you’d be forgiven for wondering if you accidentally dropped into the show’s second season rather than its first. There are sketches about a life or death hair emergency, the chain reaction of biases of people sizing [...]


    Beta Films Sells ‘Arde Madrid’ in the U.S., France, Brazil and Switzerland

    Jan Motjo’s Beta Films has found new broadcast homes for the Movistar Plus original series “Arde Madrid,” which won the Rose d’Or-Award for Best Comedy or Drama this past Sunday in London. The Virginia-based MHz Networks will broadcast the series in the U.S., France Televisions in France, HBO in Brazil and Teleclub in Switzerland. According [...]

  • Finn Jones Pico Alexander

    'Dickinson' Season 2 Adds Finn Jones, Pico Alexander

    The second season of Apple’s period comedy “Dickinson” has cast Finn Jones and Pico Alexander. Jones will star as Samuel Bowles, described as an energetic and magnetic newspaper editor. Alexander will play Henry “Ship” Shipley, a dropout of Amherst College and a boarder with the Dickinsons. Jones is best known for playing Loras Tyrell during most [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content